Kaz Cooke’s Mind your mental health: Dealing With Moods, Grief, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders & More is one of a series of eBooks covering a range of women’s health issues. Each eBook is a bite size version of a chapter from Cooke’s weightier tome Women’s Stuff – a common sense, real-worldy sort of self-help book which tackles everything from period problems, to self-esteem, to domestic violence. Mind your mental health, like Women’s Stuff, combines stories from real women (from a survey of thousands of women who shared their views and experiences) with practical health advice. It reminds you that you will never be the first – nor, sadly, the last – to experience mental health challenges; women around the world are joining you in the daily struggle to get on top of things like anxiety, grief or body dysmorphia and their tips, tricks or simple solidarity may be comforting.
Beyond the shared stories, this book signposts a range of helpful resources, like websites, health and research organisations, and other self-help books. Cooke describes the symptoms, indicators and outcomes of the major mental health problems likely to be experienced by women – as well as reminding us that some conditions don’t have a clearly defined label, that vague and nebulous symptoms may well be part of a bigger problem (those afflicted are not ‘putting it on’), and that we are still a long way from a cure for social stigma.
The book unpacks some of the most complicated mental health conditions without judgement or fuss and suggests avenues for seeking assistance. For those suffering with milder versions of the conditions in question – or indeed just temporary bouts of anger, frustration or worry – Cooke provides some easy dot-point lists of practical ways to feel better, including exercise and lifestyle hints along with ways to shift one’s perspective and get the glass tipping back towards half full. It is not prescriptive and does not espouse any one diet fad or spiritual perspective.
I’m a big fan of Cooke’s no-nonsense writing style which is just humorous enough to break the tension on a miserable subject without belittling the topic. I would not have survived pregnancy with my sanity intact without her baby bible Up The Duff and her growing list of books examining women’s and girl’s physical and mental health challenges are hugely successful around the world. All editions are regularly updated for regional differences and the latest available resources.
A few words of caution, however…Cooke’s emphasis on evidence-based approaches to cure and/or management means she is not a big fan of alternative medicines. She acknowledges that some things (like certain herbs, nutritional guidance or meditation) may be beneficial; but she warns that many other practices (like acupuncture and homeopathy) may offer only a placebo effect. She is right that some of these approaches lack a history of rigorous, scientific ‘proof’ of their efficacy, but then again, you can’t trust every doctor/psychologist/pharmacist either. Her intent is to prevent vulnerable people being ripped off (or further damaged) by shonky practitioners but there are obviously plenty of other people who swear by natural medicine.
Also, there is always a time lapse between the writing of a book and its publication date. You will need to follow up Cooke’s suggestions and research what’s available to you in your part of the world as far as medical support and online resources go. With this in mind, this book may be useful for families or partners of sufferers, since sufferers themselves can feel overwhelmed, incapable or even unworthy of actively seeking help.
On the plus side, these mini-books are cheap and easily accessible; they can be read on any device and allow one to avoid having to pore through a larger work or meander through the self-help shelves of a bookstore – each a daunting prospect if you want quick access to straightforward information.
Mind your mental health: Dealing With Moods, Grief, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders & More is published by Penguin and I thank them kindly for my review copy, made available via NetGalley.
This review will be added to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.